Empathy is Good

Earth from the Moon

Earth from the Moon

“We can cultivate empathy throughout our lives and use it as a radical force for social transformation.” Roman Krznaric

Almost all my life I thought being empathic was a curse. I’m deeply affected by what’s going on around me, and by what people around me are feeling. If you’re not a highly empathic person you may not understand what it’s like for those of us who are. Whenever I go out in public, I’m like a magnet. I pick up the feelings of those around me. When I was younger, I didn’t understand why my happy mood would suddenly turn to anger, or fear, or sadness. It was only when I was a little bit older that I realized that the feelings of those around me were attaching themselves to me. Often times my sudden mood swings had nothing to do with my own emotions.

Because I was an emotion magnet, I preferred to stay at home quiet and secure within my own family unit. School, church and going shopping were torturous experiences for me. I’d cry at movies, and feel the pretend injuries of the characters. When I was given a reading or song to sing at church or school, I’d often cry at the poignancy of the piece. Maybe people thought I was a wimpy girl. Good thing I was a girl, because it’s okay if you’re a girl and you have empathy, but it’s not okay for boys. I think that’s sad.

Over the years as I started to do deep spiritual work, practicing meditation and Reiki, I learned how to protect myself from other people’s emotions. When I did that I was able to see that some people shut themselves into cocoons to protect themselves. Maybe they are empathetic too. But some people are so disconnected from their feelings that they have become sociopathic. They can’t see or feel what is happening to the people around them. And frankly they don’t care. They don’t want to understand what it’s like to live another person’s life, as long as theirs is comfortable. It seems like there are a great many people like that in the world right now who fit that description. That makes me sad, because perhaps they started out with a large amount of empathy but got scared and chose to protect themselves.

It takes work to remain open to the feelings of others. Believe me there are times when I wish I could shut myself in a cocoon and not know the terrible things that are going on in the world. But that doesn’t help make a change for the better.

I’m a big believer in energy fields. One thing I can do is to send out positive energy to people in other parts of the world who are hurting. I’ve mentioned the Global Coherence Initiative in previous posts. That organization is all about focusing our collective energy toward a troubled place in the world. Meditation, Reiki, prayer, sending good thoughts are all ways you can send positive energy into the world. It may not always look like the positive energy is helping, but over time, it does.

Another way is to take action and actually do something. This may sound lame to you, but one of the reasons I continue to teach theatre classes, is because I like helping students open up to new abilities and talents. Theatre is an excellent way to open your empathy centers. You must identify with a character to be able to play her well.

I read about a study a few years back that measured how witnessing acts of violence or kindness affected the watcher. They found that witnessing something that’s happening to someone else causes us to feel as if it’s happening to us. I wish I could give you the link for the study, but it was so long ago I don’t have access to it any longer. It’s studies of this kind that prove why theatre, movies and TV are so powerful. It’s also one of the reasons I’m so excited that one of the most popular genres, Super Hero movies, are digging deeper into the struggles each hero goes through before they are able to take on the mantle of a true super hero. What makes them heroes is the fact that they’re willing to face their demons. It’s not just the fact that they have super powers, it’s the inner work they’re willing to do that helps them identify the suffering of others. They are able to empathize with the people they are trying to help.

The thing I liked about the article that if found on Facebook, “Six Habits of Highly Empathic People” by Roman Krznaric was his assertion that we can learn to be more empathetic. It just takes practice. The article was published almost two years ago, but I think it’s just as relevant as the day it was published. Maybe more so. There is a link on the site to a short test to help you see how empathetic you are. If you find your not very empathetic, don’t panic. You can become more so with practice.

I wasn’t surprised to find I rated very high on the empathy scale. I’m also very glad that I no longer feel like being empathic is a curse. On the contrary, it’s a huge blessing.

Lucinda Sage-MIdgorden © 2014

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Discipline to Success

Journal and candle

Journal and candle

“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” –Jim Rohn

“No matter how old you are now, you are never too young or too old for success or going after what you want.” –Pablo

Last Friday I got to go hear J. A. Jance speak about her writing process. She comes to Southern Arizona, periodically, because she used to live about 20 minutes away from my home. The Joanna Brady series of mysteries take place in and around Bisbee, Arizona where Ms. Jance grew up. She includes the actual names of streets, towns and businesses in her books, which makes for fun reading.

Since I’m a new writer, and I’ve read some of her books, I was excited to hear what she had to say about her process.

One of the first things she shared with us was how she came to use J. A. Jance as her pen name. When she was about to publish her first book, her publisher suggested she use her initials to help generate more sales, because a mystery written by Judith Ann Jance didn’t have the same mystique as one written by J. A. Jance. She also quipped that because of her name, her books are on the shelf right next to P. D. James, another woman who writes mysteries. Mysteries are supposed to be the exclusive genre of men, you see. Hah! (I like P. D. James work too.) Writers do need to consider what name to use when they publish, so hearing about the reasons for the adoption of her pen name was interesting. Since I’m writing books about women, I don’t feel the need to use a pseudonym. It’s all a matter of name branding to match your genre.

The next thing she told us was about her process of writing. Recently, a writer friend of mine told me about three styles of writers, plotters, pantsers, and puzzlers. I was delighted to find out that J. A. Jance is a pantser. She crinkled her nose when describing her experience in middle school when her teacher tried to teach her how to create an outline. The experience was so abhorrent to her that she doesn’t use an outline for her books, or her talks. We all laughed at that. I felt oddly connected to her when she said she gets an idea for a book and just starts writing. Me too!

Then she told us about several personal experiences and how she used them in her J. P. Beaumont and Joanna Brady books. It’s funny how our brains store away fragments that for one reason or another stay with us in vivid detail. Personal experiences are a gold mine for a writer.There are so many things in my first novel that are inspired by my real life that it could almost be a memoir.

I could really relate to her story of attempting to enroll in a creative writing class when she attended the University of Arizona in the 60s. The instructor turned her away because as he said, “Only men can be writers”. I don’t know why he said that when some of the most famous and enduring books that survive today were written by women. Okay, they had to publish under men’s names at first, but that doesn’t alter the fact that, Jane Austen, Charlotte and Emily Bronté and George Eliot, who was a woman, all wrote classic novels that are still read and studied today. I could relate to her experience, since in the mid-70s, only a few years later, I faced discrimination because I was a woman in a “man’s” area of study. It’s nice to find that a New York Times best selling author and I have several things in common.

The thing that impressed me the most about her was her determination to become a writer against all odds. She never gave up writing, even after a bitter divorce from an alcoholic writer. Even though she had to work full-time to support herself and her children, she found time to write. Eventually, she got to quit her job and follow her bliss. She was willing to put in the effort to make her dream come true.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what J. A. Jance said on Friday, and comparing it to what I’ve learned writing my first novel. I think that choosing to make what you’re passionate about a priority every day, even if you only get to spend a relatively short amount of time on it, is the key to success. It’s the continued effort that builds the road, the house, the city, the business, the painting, or the book. Even if it takes a long time to do it, dedicated discipline eventually pays off. That’s what impressed me about J. A. Jance. She’s a disciplined writer, and that’s why she sells so many books.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014

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Dilemma

Hypatia, Greek Alexandrian Philosopher

Hypatia, Greek Alexandrian Philosopher

“Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody expects of you. Never excuse yourself.” ― Henry Ward Beecher

“Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right. These are the magic keys to living your life with integrity.” ― W. Clement Stone

“Everyone may not be good, but there’s always something good in everyone. Never judge anyone shortly because every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.” ― Oscar Wilde

“In fact men will fight for a superstition quite as quickly as for a living truth – often more so, since a superstition is so intangible you cannot get at it to refute it, but truth is a point of view, and so is changeable.” –Hypatia

Lately I’ve been struggling with something and I don’t quite know how to resolve my feelings, or what action to take. Actually this is not a new struggle, but it’s resurfaced recently because of all the anti-women comments, attitudes, and events that have been taking place around the globe. We seem to be in a new era of witch-hunts, and women are being blamed for all the turmoil that’s going on in the world.

When some new attempt to curtail women’s rights occurs, I go through a kaleidoscope of emotions. Rage is the first thing I feel. What makes men think they can trample all over our rights, or accuse us of provoking them to rape us! Or as a guy who made a silly video I saw on Facebook said, “When dealing with a woman, you have to assume they are, on a scale of 1 to 10, a 4 on the crazy scale.” I wanted to yell at him and say, “You’re a 10 on the crazy scale if you think all women are a little bit crazy!” Just because he hasn’t taken the time to create a bridge of communication with women who have a different way of approaching the world, he thinks we’re crazy! Ahhhhh! How lazy and entitled can you get!

Okay, I have to take a break from my rage here to say that I have lots of wonderful men in my life. My first B.A. was in religious studies. I was the only woman in the program. Most of my fellow students were fantastic. I learned so much from them. I had a wonderful father, who was understanding and deeply spiritual. My husband is fantastic, my brother and brothers-in-law are all also great, as is my father-in-law. In fact, I haven’t met many men that I would call b-heads. However, when another woman has to suffer at the hands of men, I feel it like it’s happening to me, and rage comes bubbling to the surface.

The other day I saw a story about a football player who supposedly beat his girl friend unconscious in an elevator. The video only showed him pulling her out of the elevator like a sack of potatoes and laying her on the floor outside it. Jon Stewart had a whole segment on the injustice of that player getting suspended from playing two or three games for the incident, when if he’d been caught smoking pot, or some other violation of his contract, he’d have been suspended for many more games. What’s up with that? My rage came to the surface again. It’s okay to be violent toward women? But if a woman defends herself from a violent man, she’s locked away for a very long time? Again I say Ahhhh!

I knew that I wanted to write about this subject then. It had been coming up for me in the books I was reading, in the new book I’ve started writing, which deals partly with women’s suffrage. And, of course, women’s rights has been coming up in the news over and over again of late. Yet, how do I write something that will add positive energy to women’s rights rather than adding to the violence and disrespect? Two things came to mind. First, we women must find our power and stand up to the bullies. Second, we must look past men’s fear, and refusal to understand us to see the goodness within them.

The first one, finding our power and not backing down, might be a hard one for some of us. We have centuries of oppression to overcome. During all that time, women have developed certain behaviors and attitudes just to survive. We’ve had to find work arounds to accomplish the things we’ve wanted to do with our lives. Often times women who’ve displayed too much power, have been killed because they had the audacity to claim their power. I could name hundreds of women I’ve learned about over the years who’ve been killed because they violated the unwritten code that women are the weaker sex, but it would make this blog entry much too long.

Years ago I read a fantastic book called, The Chalice and the Blade, by Riane Eisler It’s a non-fiction book about archeological evidence that shows that pre-historic cultures had a female orientation. Ancient people worshiped the Goddess, women had vital leadership roles in their communities, and life was almost entirely free of war. So what happened?

I’ve asked myself, over and over throughout the years, what is it about women that makes men quake in their boots and feel the need to put us in our place or expunge our ideas? Why do they blame us for their lust, or need for control? The only thing I can come up with is that at some core level there is something about us they fear.

The thing is, when we feel fear about something, it’s usually an indictor that there is an issue or situation to which we need to pay attention. And that brings me to the second point I want to make. Some men, and even some women are afraid of women and men having an equal say in the changes we must make to sustain life in the world. Those of us who are awake must do what we can to turn the tide of intolerance in all it’s ugly forms.

The best ways we can help make the change, is to make reasoned, well thought out arguments. Screaming and complaining won’t help. This is no time to lay down and moan that the world is going to hell in a hand basket.

We need to be persistent in asking, “What are you afraid of?” and not stop asking until fearful people stop and think. The issues we’re dealing with right now have come up over and over again. Each time they arise, we heal aspects of them, but they won’t go away completely until we’ve healed them completely.

I’m asking, what is it you’re afraid of? What is your fear trying to teach you? Only by facing our fears can we make this world a better place in which to live.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014

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Curiosity and Wonder

Taj Mahal at sunset

Taj Mahal at sunset

“I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift should be curiosity.” –Eleanor Roosevelt

“Satisfaction of one’s curiosity is one of the greatest sources of happiness in life.” –Linus Pauling

“Curiosity is one of the forms of feminine bravery.” –Victor Hugo

Wonder and curiosity have been a part of my life since I was very young. I remember as a girl sitting for a very long time looking at what I thought were Fairy footprints in the dirt in the empty lot across from our house. The other kids poo pooed my assertion that the marks were indeed made by Fairies and ran off to play war. But I saw Fairy prints because my parents had been reading us stories from a volume of Grimms’ Fairy Tales, and I was convinced they really existed.

Because of my parents, I grew up with a sense of curiosity and wonder about the world around me. I came by it naturally. Both mom and dad believed in the unseen world. But my father particularly wanted to know about everything. Even though he dropped out of school he read voraciously, and paid attention to current events. That’s why we were watching as the first man stepped foot on the moon, and saw the horrors of war, and all the assassinations that took place during the 60s. When you’re curious, you have to take the good with the bad.

To me curiosity and wonder are a major component of creativity. Maybe I think that because of my parents, but just think of it, would humans be where we are today without curiosity? Would there be art, science, music, social structures, civilizations, religions, philosophies, or technology without wonder and curiosity? There are always more things to learn, more things to create and discover. There are always deeper interactions between humans that can be achieved if we use our curiosity.

One of the most profound experiences of my life was a trip my husband and I took circumnavigating the globe. It was 1996, before all the fear about traveling abroad. That experience changed my life. It was the result of our burning curiosity to immerse ourselves in other cultures around the world. We accomplished this amazing trip by following our unseen guides, or intuition, or if you prefer, messages from God.

It all started when we hosted an acquaintance we’d met at a Reiki gathering in Oregon. She was from Germany but was going to New Zealand a week after the Gathering. So, we offered our guest room to her so she wouldn’t have to pay for a hotel. Each night she would regale us with tales of her travels to different places around the world. And each night Barry and I would go to bed talking about our desire to do the same. As we talked, we decided we wanted to visit several friends and family around the world, which would mean we’d need to circumnavigate the globe. It seemed impossible. Then on the last night of our friend’s visit we told her what we wanted to do and she said, “You can get an around the world trip ticket for about $3,000.” All of sudden the trip seemed possible, even though we didn’t have that amount at the time.

The next day it happened to be Barry’s birthday. We were going to have a birthday party for him at the Sophia Center where he worked, and then I was going to take him on a weekend trip to the Oregon Coast. On our way to the party, I took our friend to a bank where she could exchange some money before flying to New Zealand. While she was in the bank, I said casually to Divine Oneness, as I call God, “I wonder how we can pay for our trip around the world?” Immediately I heard a voice in my head say, You could sell your house. I waited for that sinking feeling I get when I know I’m about to make the wrong decision, but it never came. Instead I felt elated. I couldn’t wait to tell Barry.

After the party as we were driving to the Coast, I said as casually as I possibly could, “I have an idea how we can fund our trip around the world.”

Barry said, “Oh really, I have one too. Let’s see if they’re the same idea.”

My heart started pounding as I said, “We could sell our house.”

Barry turned and looked at me and said, “That’s exactly what I was thinking.”

From that moment on, we knew that’s what we were going to do. While we were on our romantic weekend, we began making plans for selling our house to take the most amazing trip of our entire lives. Everyone we told about our plans from the real estate agent, to the travel agent said, “That’s so fantastic. You’ll never regret it.” And we never have. We got to see more wonders than we could ever have imagined we’d experience in one life time.

That trip has been a source of great wonder, curiosity and creativity for me. And I’ll never regret selling our house, which after all is just a thing, to see the amazing sites I saw in various places around the world.

Contemplate what life would be like if we weren’t curious about how things worked, or weren’t filled with wonder when we looked up at the night sky filled with stars. What would happen if we felt no wonder when we fell in love, or when a friend stood by us no matter what was happening? Worst of all, what if we woke up every day feeling sure that this day was going to be just like the next? Just thinking of living without curiosity gives me the willies. What about you?

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014

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Who Am I?

Cochise Campus Flower

Cochise Campus Flower

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched – they must be felt with the heart.” –Helen Keller

“There are victories of the soul and spirit. Sometimes, even if you lose, you win.” –Elie Wiesel

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” –Viktor E. Frankl

My posts lately have been increasingly introspective. They’ve been my spiritual musings directed at how we can make the world a better place in which to live. Today I’m hoping to finish the series with this basic question. Who am I?

I’ve asked myself that question often, especially in the last seven years when life has been a bit more of a struggle than it had been previously. Who am I without all the possessions, titles, opinions of others and of myself? If I had nothing but what I came into this world with, who would I be?

You might wonder why I ask that question. What difference does it make? How can it help us solve the dire problems we face in the world? If you’ve been reading my posts for any length of time you know that my premise is that we must change ourselves to change the world.

Right now close family members of mine are going through an extremely rough time. In many ways they’ve been stripped of the things that we often think define us. It’s been a dark time for them, and for me, because I love them and feel connected to them. Their struggles have made them ask the question, who are we really? By extension, I’ve gone back to asking myself again, who am I without all the outer trappings of life?

It’s important to keep asking that question for two reasons. First, it helps us discover why you’re here on the planet. It points to our life’s purpose. Second, as we grow and change the answer shifts a bit because we discover we possess new talents and abilities of which we were previously unaware.

When we go through dark times and are stripped of our ego identify, it’s rough. If you’ve gone through it, you know the feeling. You’re lost. It feels like you’ll never get out of the hole in which you find yourself. You feel despair.

We often think of despair as a bad thing. However, having gone through what some call “the dark night of the soul,” I can say with confidence that despair can be a very good thing to feel, if you allow yourself to really feel it instead of avoiding it with medication, alcohol, TV, video games or any other distraction. I have to say here that some people need the medication just to get to the place where they can deal with their despair.

The thing about being in a dark place is this: At some point in our lives, we have to face our true selves. Being in the dark place gives us an opportunity to do deep soul searching. When we do that, we are confronted with the reality of how much more there is to us than we ever could have imagined possible. That can be a scary proposition because it means we’re responsible for using our gifts and talents. It means we can’t sit back and complain, or be lazy any longer.

Many people around the globe are facing their true selves. Some, maybe even most, would rather live in despair than to acknowledge the shining light within. Despair is familiar. We think we deserve it. That’s not true. We deserve to be happy. We deserve to contribute our wisdom and light to others in the world.

How do we break the cycle of centuries of living in the dark? Think about this: What if the ideas that the powerful always win, violence is the norm, and that most of us are put on this earth to struggle, are completely wrong? What if we are light beings with talents beyond our imagination? What if we ordinary people could change the world by changing ourselves? Who would you be then?

This is something I’ve been contemplating for a very long time. I harp on it a lot in these blog posts because something compels me to love myself, and allow myself to be who I really am. If I’m compelled to learn self-love, it must be important for others to learn as well. At this juncture in history, I don’t see how we can continue unless each person takes a good look at themselves and asks themselves who they really are.

I can’t say I know who I am quite yet, because I feel like there are parts of myself I’ve kept hidden, or that I’m not ready to see. On the other hand, I’m not going to give up trying to answer that question. I want to know myself. I want to be my true self so I can help others answer the question, who am I?

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014

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We Need Compassion

 

Grace Cathedral Window

Grace Cathedral Window

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.” –Dalai Lama

“Here are the values that I stand for: honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you want to be treated and helping those in need. To me, those are traditional values.” –Ellen DeGeneres

Recent events in my family have made me wonder why some people are filled with caring and compassion for their fellow human beings and why others aren’t. I guess it’s not only that. The political climate is so volatile right now, not just in our country but almost everywhere in the world that there are times when I wonder if we’re going to make it as a species.

Then I remember that there are lots of individuals and organizations that are working to make this world a better place to live. Some do it the way I do, on a one-to-one basis, and others are working on a global scale. That gives me hope, because just lately, I’ve been feeling down about the whole situation in the world. Sometimes it’s difficult being a very sensitive empath.

Ever since I was a child, I’ve picked up the feelings of others. For many years I didn’t understand why my mood would suddenly change from happy to sad, or anxious and fearful. Then I realized, it was because I was like a magnet, picking up the feelings of others. Even after learning how to shield myself from the feelings of others, I struggle with being extremely sensitive.

Some mornings I wake up feeling anxious and I don’t know why. For the most part my life is running smoothly. I’ve learned to accept that challenges happen, and though I may temporarily be thrown off balance, I’m able to right myself and move forward knowing all is well.

However, that’s not the case for everyone. Some people are so full of fear they do and say hurtful things to those around them.

So what can we do to change the situation in which we find ourselves besides work on finding our own inner peace? I think practicing compassion is something we can do to help move the evolutionary process along.

Right after I graduated from high school, I took a job at a Montessori school as a teacher’s aide. I’d decided that I wanted to work for a few years before attending college. One day something happened in the classroom, and I was dealing with an angry little boy. The specifics of the incident have faded over the years, but I remember saying to him, “It’s okay, you can be mad at me. I can take it.” I’ll never forget the look of relief on that boys face. So many conflicting emotions had been fighting for supremacy. I could see them reflected in his body language. That’s when I told him it was okay to feel anger. I don’t know what made me tell him it was okay, but I remember feeling compassion for him. He was a powerless child confronted by an adult who had power over him. Then I’d given him permission to feel his feelings.

I know that the people I’m angry with have more money and external power than I do. But, their world is crumbling and they have no idea how to stop it. They are resisting the tidal wave of change that they didn’t see coming. That makes me feel sad for them. Some instinct tells me that the one way we can speed up the awakening process is to practice compassion in every interaction in which we participate. Calling the bully names, and treating them the way they treat us doesn’t make them back down. It makes them dig in their heels and put up more resistance. So, I propose trying a different tack. Show them compassion.

Here’s a site where you can get some tips about how to do that, or even begin to participate in building a compassionate world. Karen Armstrong, author of many books including,  A History of God, and Twelve Steps for a Compassionate Life, has begun the organization Charter for Compassion which is a world wide project to educate people and inspire a change in the way we live our lives on all levels. This is just one of many organizations with whom I’m connected.

When I read the emails of groups like this that are trying to help us turn from fear, close-mindedness and hatred, to love and compassion, I’m encouraged. Maybe we can evolve. Maybe I can let go of my anger and help make the world a better place to live.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014

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Happiness as Radical Love

Bazz & Luce in Quartzsite 2Maybe some of you felt the way I did when the Supreme Court chose to side with Hobby Lobby. I was sad, but not surprised. It’s just the latest attack on women’s freedom to choose for themselves. To soothe myself, I went to Facebook. I have lots of friends who post positive messages. Luckily I found a post by my friend Terri. She was sharing how happy she was about the little things in life. In the stream of comments to her post, someone put the link for the YouTube lyric video to Pharrell Williams song “Happy”. I like the song, so I followed the link to start my day off right, and was struck by these words from the song.

“Here come bad news, talking this and that.
Well gimme all you got and don’t hold back.
I should probably warn you, I’ll be just fine.
No offense to you, don’t waste your time.
Here’s why. Because I’m happy.”

That’s how I’m feeling about all of the people who are so frightened about what’s going on in our world. They’re the ones bringing bad news. They try to control every little thing around them and want to control us so they feel better.

I’ve got news for them. There are a growing number of people out there who have decided that they aren’t going to allow those fearful people to control them, no matter what. I say yay to that!

I’m going to join them and go on building my happy life and not pay any attention to the haters, the conservative politicians, the fearful people who want to tell me how to live my life. They mistakenly think that if they control everything outside themselves, they’ll feel better. They won’t.

Our inner state is our choice. I choose to be happy. I’ll let them be miserable if they want to be.

Eckhart Tolle says “What you resist persists. What you fight you strengthen.” It’s a hard concept to get. We’re so used to putting up resistance when we feel like someone is in our face. But think about these things: The opossum plays dead when it feels threatened. It takes two to keep a fight going. It’s better to be for something than against it.

Wayne Dyer tells the story of Mother Teresa turning down an invitation to attend a protest rally against a war. I don’t know which war. She was gracious about it, but she said, “I’ll attend when you have a rally ‘for’ peace.”

I’m not only for peace, I’m for everyone being able to live the life that will make them happy.

One solution to help yourself achieve happiness amid all the chaos, is to follow The Four Agreements. Someone posted them on Facebook the day after the Hobby Lobby decision. I love number two: “Don’t take anything personally”. That was a difficult one for me to learn. For many years I didn’t love myself, so I thought the world was against me. It’s not. The Universe is always on your side, whether you believe it is or not. It’s when we are fearful that things don’t go the way we’ve planned. That doesn’t mean The Universe is against us. It just means we’re being offered a new opportunity to find our place in the world. If we take the opportunity provided, eventually we find peace.

True peace, happiness and joy can coexsist with all the turmoil going on in the world. We can choose to be an influence for good. I love what Paulo Coelho wrote in The Alchemist, “No matter what he does, every person on earth plays a central role in the history of the world. And normally he doesn’t know it.”

What role will you play in the history of the world? I want to be remembered for spreading love, light, healing and happiness.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014

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Forgiveness As Radical Love

December Sunrise

December Sunrise

“A Rattlesnake, if cornered will become so angry it will bite itself. That is exactly what the harboring of hate and resentment against others is – a biting of oneself. We think we are harming others in holding these spites and hates, but the deeper harm is to ourselves.” E. Stanley Jones

“Treat people as if they were what they should be and you help them become what they are capable of becoming.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Forgiveness is not an easy thing to accomplish. However, it’s essential to self-healing. You can’t give Radical Love, without being willing to forgive. Here’s my forgiveness story.

Twelve years ago, the job I thought was my dream job, and the purpose of my life, was yanked out from under me. The father, a powerful person in the school district, thought his daughter should have been hired two years earlier, when they hired me. We were the only two candidates for the job. A year later she was hired for the second position in the department, and they set out to discredit me in any way they could. At the end of my second year, budget cuts came to my department, due to a failed bond measure. Since I had just earned my teaching certificate, I thought for sure, I’d be the one to keep my position. That was not the case. I was in shock.

I was furious, helpless against their attacks, wanted revenge, and hated them for treating me as if I was an obstacle instead of a human being. The fact that they could dispose of me so easily was a complete shock. I had been working for the school for six years and had a good reputation, yet I was as disposable as if nothing I had done mattered.

My supporters who were officers in the teacher’s union, confirmed that the daughter did not hold a teaching certificate, and urged me to sue. But something told me that wasn’t what I was supposed to do. I’d been given a great gift, even though I couldn’t see what that was at the moment. So, I found another teaching job in a nearby town and set about healing.

It’s taken me from then until now to forgive everyone involved in what I considered a betrayal by the school district. I had to let go of denial, and wishing the outcome had been different. At first I allowed myself to feel completely angry. I dreamed of revenge. Like the rattlesnake, I was biting myself, thinking the father and daughter were going to be poisoned. Even though the poison didn’t feel good, I wasn’t ready to let it go quite yet. My anger turned to self-recrimination. Why hadn’t I seen what was coming and blocked their efforts?

One day, about two months into the new school year, I was coming out of the local grocery store, and the father was coming in. He smiled and said, “Hi. How are you?” I just glared at him and didn’t say a word. How do you think I feel after you stole the job I loved, you B___d? What was wrong with him, why couldn’t he see what he’d done to me?

Later, when I cooled off, it hit me, He’s completely asleep. He has no idea how much he hurt me. I’m not a person to him. When I realized that, I remembered an interview on Inside the Actor’s Studio a few years earlier. I think James Lipton was interviewing Christopher Walken, but I may be wrong. In any case James Lipton asked the actor how he felt about playing so many villains. The actor said “Well, you know, the villain is the hero of his own story.” Ah, the father and daughter are the heroes of their own story. To them, I was the villain. It’s all a matter of perspective isn’t it? Somehow this little aha made me feel better. That was the day I began to heal, though I was still wounded.

For years, every time I drove by the high school, I felt physical pain at my loss. I refused to step foot in the school for blood drives, or for civic events. Eventually I was forced to do so, because of a county wide teacher’s conference, which was to be held at my former high school.

It helped that many of my former colleagues came to greet me, and tell me how much they missed me. Some of them even told me that things weren’t going so well in my old department. I know this sounds bad, but I was glad. I felt vindicated. But by then, I’d found my place in my new school district. They appreciated me, and I saw the contrast between the two districts. I was in a much better place. After that event, I was able to let go of wishing things had been different. Instead of looking back, I was determined to look forward.

Little by little I let go of parts of my anger, hurt and blame. I saw that I had called this situation to me for some larger reason that I couldn’t see at the moment. I let go of the biggest chunk of my grudge the day I realized that my new teaching position had led me toward writing. In the old position, I might never have allowed myself to uncover my long held desire to be a writer. I’d have been too busy to think about old, unrealized dreams.

I thought I’d let all the pain of that time in my life go, but a few months ago, I realized that I wasn’t completely finished with my forgiveness process. I set about letting go of those old, old hurt feelings.

As you might guess, since I came to the realization that we must practice Radical Love to heal the world, I’ve been working on sending love to people, and situations that need it. This morning in my mediation, the faces of the father and daughter came into my mind. Without any shred of anger or desire for revenge, I was able to send them love.

What a relief! I can move on. I can learn to practice Radical Love, for myself and others.

Thank you to all of my followers. I love your comments, they help me grow.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014

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Radical Love

Celeste and Shane IMG_0040 “True words aren’t eloquent;
eloquent words aren’t true.
Wise men don’t need to prove their point;
men who need to prove their point aren’t wise.

The Master has no possessions.
The more he does for others,
the happier he is.
The more he gives to others,
the wealthier he is.”
― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

“I give you a new commandment that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13: 34-35. The New Revised Standard Version

I don’t usually quote The Bible even though I graduated with a Religious Studies degree. The reason I don’t is because we think we know what the quotes mean from years of going to church school classes and listening to sermons. I’d like for us to consider a new, deeper way of thinking about the above Bible quote. I’d like us to consider that Jesus was asking his disciples, us, to practice Radical Love.

What is Radical Love? I don’t claim to have any special insight on that subject. This blog is prompted by something I saw on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart last week. Jon’s guest was a man who had written a book about the Koch brothers. During the course of the interview, the guest said something like, “These brothers are so wealthy that they’ll never know what it feels like to have to live on $2.00 a day.” When he said that I turned to Barry and said, “How do you reach someone like that? How do you help them find empathy for others less fortunate than they are?”

The next morning the answer came to me. We have to learn to practice Radical Love. Love is the only thing that will melt the hard-hearts of people who’ve never had to struggle to feed their family, or who’ve never lost everything. Practicing Radical Love is the only thing that will soothe the wounded hearts of people who’ve known nothing but struggle, discrimination, hatred and unending fear.

I don’t claim to be good at practicing Radical Love. Oh how often I want to make snarky comments on Facebook, or Twitter. But then I remember that we’re all connected by some indefinable something that’s linked to the Divine. And that stops me from writing the remark. Making sarcastic remarks on social media and in our daily discourse isn’t going to help the situation.

All I know is that we can change the world. But to do that, we have to be willing to change ourselves, as I’ve been writing in this blog for the last few weeks. We have to change ourselves so that we can look at another human being and see their beautiful soul, the soul that connects each of us to the greater Soul. We need to have empathy for what they are going through, and we need to love them, no matter what we think they’ve done.

That’s a tall order. I don’t do it all the time. My ego gets in the way. I get angry that the other person doesn’t see the world the way I do. When we fight against a person, we make them angry. When we fight a situation we make it worse. As Eckhart Tolle says in A New Earth, “Discontent, blaming, complaining, self-pity cannot serve as a foundation for a good future, no matter how much effort you make.”

So, all I can say about the Koch brothers and everyone like them, is that I have to send them love. I have to visualize that the love I send is getting through to their hearts so that they can become compassionate, and have empathy for others. When they feel that, they’ll stop fighting to keep the billions of dollars they own all to themselves. They’ll be willing to share it with those less fortunate.

What are your thoughts about what Radical Love might be? I’m interested to know what you think.

Ariel and Daddy (31)

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014
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We Still Have Time to Change Pt. 3

The Skin of Our Teeth, Gladys with baby and Mom

The Skin of Our Teeth, Gladys with baby and Mom

“If you take care of your mind, you take care of the world.” –Arianna Huffington

“The very words you speak and think are your personal vehicle on your journey to happiness.” –Yvonne Oswald

After writing the posts for the last two weeks, I felt there were a lot more tools to share with those of you who are on the self-discovery path. Today I want to write about our thoughts as a tool. Our thoughts can keep us from realizing the life we want to live, or if we pay attention to what we’re thinking, they can help us create a dream life.

When something challenging happens, what are your first thoughts? I bet they’re negative. When we’re out and about, we overhear lots of negative comments from friends, co-workers and people in the next aisle at the grocery store. We’re so used to complaining and asking “Why me?”, that most of us don’t even think to look at the things that happen to us as opportunities.

When I was in college, I was going through a difficult time. Some wise person suggested I keep a journal and write down all the things I was thinking and feeling. “What a great idea,” I thought. However after months of whining and complaining in my journal, I was no closer to feeling better. Then one day I wrote in my journal, “What am I supposed to be learning from this?” That was the key phrase. Immediately I got answers in my journal. Over the next months I looked at the lessons in everything that had been happening to me. Every time I looked for the lessons, I felt better, because I found solutions, and I became aware of the blocks in my thinking that were keeping me from living my dreams.

What happened to me, is a key to the way we can change the way things are going in our inner world and the outer world. Negative thinking is a habit that most of us learned at our parent’s knee. It takes a commitment to pay attention to our thoughts and what we say. When we pay attention to our inner and outer dialogue, we can find ways to change them to positive thoughts and statements. Many of the things we say are figures of speech that we’re so used to, that we don’t even think of them as negative. For example, how often do you use the words fear and worry in your daily discourse? How often, when something good happens for someone you know, do you say, “That’ll never happen to me.” The thing is, words are linked to emotional states of being, most of which are unconscious. Since that’s the case it takes time to root out those pesky negative thoughts.

A year or so ago, I read a fantastic book which has great exercises for identifying those negative thoughts that we aren’t even aware we have. The book is, Every Word Has Power, by Yvonne Oswald, MHT, MNLP, MTLT. The book is full of those everyday phrases and thought patterns that we use out of habit, that trigger negative thinking and feeling. Reading it helped me become more conscious, and to use language in a more positive way.

Yvonne Oswald’s work is based on scientific research. Among the circle of spiritual authors I read, it’s a well documented fact that our thoughts create our reality. This is something that was known by ancient spiritual traditions, but not so many years ago, it was verified by scientists, particularly quantum physicists. If you watched the series Cosmos, you probably heard Neal deGrasse Tyson mention this fact. But if you’re skeptical, here are two other researchers talking about the same thing.

Gregg Braden is a scientist and a spiritual teacher. This video of Gregg talking about the power of our subconscious mind, will help you understand the point that I’m trying to make, that what we think creates our reality. If you still need convincing, watch this TED Talk by Shawn Achor, a proponent of Postive Psychology and a happiness researcher, about how simple practices done every day for 21 days can change our thoughts and feelings to more positive patterns.

Why do we want to change our thinking and feeling to more positive patterns you might ask? Because continuing to see the world as if everything is going down the tubes hasn’t helped us change the serious problems we face. We’ve got to consider what Albert Einstein said as the truth. “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

We’ve been doing the same things over and over again, allowing our thought patterns to turn toward the negative. While human behavior has changed for the better, we’re at a point where we need to make a quantum leap forward. Which means we need a lot of people to work on becoming happier and more loving, and thinking in positive ways. The books and videos give you some practical ways you can do that.

The final tool that I want to suggest is to switch the negative television you watch, for shows that are more positive. Years ago I stopped watching the news because I felt so bad after watching a half an hour or an hour of negative stories about what was going on in the world. Shawn Achor said in his TED talk and on Super Soul Sunday with Oprah, that we take in those negative messages and think that the world is a negative place. But it’s not true. It just takes a shift in the kinds of messages we take in and a shift in our perceptions.

Super Soul Sunday is a fantastic substitute for all the negative programming. Shows like Cosmos, or TV shows where the characters grow and the relationships become deeper and richer as the seasons go along are other great choices. Bones is one good example of that kind of fictional show. There are lots of others. You have to be willing to look for them, and resist the negative ones where competition and getting ahead is the main theme. It also helps if you talk with your family about the positive shows you watch.

Not long ago I read an article about a new therapy technique being used in research trials with young couples. The goal was to help newlyweds learn to communicate better and prevent early divorce. Instead of sitting down and talking with a therapist, the couple watched a romantic comedy together. Then they talked with the therapist about the behaviors of the characters, identifying the ones that they could relate to. In that way, the couple could identify destructive, and positive behaviors that they engaged in. Watching the movie created a non-threatening way for them to understand themselves and their partners better.

The bottom line is, the world is only a terrifying place in which to live, if you’re full of fear. You don’t have to feel fear. You can do as I did. You can ask yourself, “What am I supposed to learn from this?” When you do that, you’ll begin to see a deeper meaning in current events. And when you look for the positive things that are happening around you, the world becomes much more friendly.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014

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